In Martial Arts, Different Schools Have Different Rules

Most forms of martial arts require a balance between the mental, physical and spiritual to reach the top. In fact, martial arts are often considered spiritual disciplines as much as they are physical ones. In Taekwondo, for instance, morality and spirituality are just as important as physicality, considering Taekwondo focuses on truth and justice rather than on power and might. When it comes to determining the appropriate level of moral and mental development required for advancement, different schools and different masters set their own unique standards.

Taekwondo Master Al Quiceno, who runs the Panthers Martial Arts school in Suffer, New York, says that every school is a little different, as they depend on the master’s requirements. In Quiceno’s case, students have to prove their responsibility by taking care of a raw egg for a week. They have to create a scrapbook that demonstrates their understanding of the history of Taekwondo, as well as other assorted techniques. But the trials don’t end there. In order to get a black belt, Quiceno’s students have to take him on at chess, as well as display their peak physical condition with a three-mile run and 1000 repetitions with a skipping rope, on top of their typical sparring sessions.

Far from being unusual, Quinceno’s standards seem to be the norm, as students at Westchester Martial Arts Academy in Eastchester, New York, have to undergo similar trials before they reach the coveted black belt. Chuck Giangreco, an instructor at Westchester Martial Arts Academy, requires his students to pass an oral exam, as well as run martial arts classes so that they can prove their communication and leadership skills. In addition to the standard martial arts routines, he also requires students to pass running, push-up and pull-up tests. According to Giangreco, achieving a black belt is akin to a form of higher education, which justifies all the extra work and additional requirements.

JoJo Guarin, a Jiu-Jitsu instructor at Gracie Barra Academy in White Plains, New York, says that mental toughness plays a big role in obtaining a black belt, but that there are other factors that are equally important. At Gracie Barra, for instance, attitude is essential to advancement. Guarin says that students who display a general bad attitude to life will not be awarded a black belt as it will reflect poorly on their instructors. So, while students may be at the peak of their physical powers, and perform equally well in a variety of cognitive tests, unless they display a positive attitude to life, they will be denied the ultimate prize in martial arts.

Bruce Lee, who is probably the most famous martial arts practitioner that the world has ever known, did not subscribe to the notion of belts, but that is not a philosophy that sits well with many modern day instructors. Giangreco feels that the belt system is extremely useful, as it keeps people striving to achieve more and constantly improve. This opinion is endorsed by Cynthia Estevez, a 17 year-old Taekwondo practitioner from Panthers Martial Arts. Estevez says, “Just being a black belt is a big deal … It’s a cool thing because it’s not something a lot of people have, so it’s special.”